Havisham by Ronald Frame (November 2013)

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Havisham should be on your Fall Reading List.

Whether you’ve previously made the acquaintance of Miss Havisham before, or this is the first time you are encountering her– from the onset, you know that her tale will only end tragically. Readers who have visited her before in the pages of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, will be familiar with her adult-self, but will enjoy the depth of character that Frame’s narrative adds. The prose (which thankfully is not nearly as dreary as Dickens’) and story flow nicely, and I was grateful that Frame does not treat Miss Havisham too cruelly as he paints her past. Those who may have preconceptions about how she became a ghost of a woman wandering the halls in her wedding dress, may not enjoy this telling of Miss Havisham’s youth, I found Frame nicely walks the line between revision and adherence to canon. It was refreshing to envision Catherine Havisham not only as a slightly mad spinster, but as a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own. Perhaps that is what makes what happens to her eventually so heartbreaking?

Havisham also sheds light onto the machinations at work that transform Estella into the cool, calculating creature we meet later in GE. Though nonetheless unforgiveable, at least the reasons for Havisham’s molding of the girl into a minor sociopath become more understandable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Havisham and  recommend it to both lovers and haters of Great Expectations, and those that have never read it.  (Personally I have never been able to stomach the full novel but have enjoyed its on-screen adaptations.) Clocking in at around 330-something pages, it’s an enjoyable story to spend a weekend with. 

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was made available for review to me by the publisher via NetGalley.

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